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Endurance, Wellness / September 11, 2016

3 moves for a faster upper body

Written by: Morris Brossette

Last week, I wrote about the importance of strength training for endurance athletes. Upper body workouts for runners are often neglected, but it can have major benefits.

Likewise, many runners fail to train themselves above the waist.

I recently helped a client incorporate heavy lifts and upper body work into his training regimen. As a result, he crushed his PR at the brutal Leadville Trail 100 Run.

Our approach to the upper body was simple. We focused on three moves to strengthen posture, improve the run gait, and create a bulletproof core.


Climbing a long, steep hill demands an upright posture and a consistent arm swing pattern. These are supported by a strong back and shoulders, which can be trained with simple pull-ups.

Pull-ups are damn hard, so begin with assisted pull-ups as demonstrated in the video below. Use your legs to assist in pulling your chin over the bar, then lower yourself slowly. Spend three or four seconds on each repetition. 

Hanging knee raises

This movement is key to improving both posture and run gait. It develops strength in the hip flexor to properly lift the knee and builds abdominal strength through spine stabilization. It’s also a great move to mix in toward the end of the workout, when legs are fatigued (as they will be in a race).

Perform three or four sets of 10-12 repetitions. Alternate between lifting both legs simultaneously and lifting one leg at a time. Be careful not to flex/crunch your spine when you lift your knees. Exhale forcefully and tighten your abs as hard as possible with each knee lift.

The Plank

Abs aren’t just there to help you get a date—their actual purpose is to stabilize the spine.

Once the core breaks down, pretty much everything becomes more challenging. What was once a lift of the knee becomes an awkward forward hip swing. The gait becomes sloppy and inefficient.

My favorite move for core strength is the plank. It can be performed virtually anywhere, multiple times a day, with zero equipment.

Perform three sets of 60 seconds of an “active” plank. Don’t just hang out in the position and stare at the clock—flex your glutes and quads, and create tension in your lats/shoulders by pulling your elbows toward your hips. Hold the tension for five-second increments throughout your 60-second plank.

Keep your head in a neutral position, looking between your hands/fists. Stop the set if you feel any pain/discomfort in your low back.

Morris Brossette trains athletes of all stripes. For more of his tips, check out

Do you have your own preferred upper body workouts for runners? Email [email protected] to let us know. 

about the author

Morris Brossette

Morris “Mo” Brossette grew up running, hiking, biking, and basically living everyday in the woods. Each day was a new adventure of building forts, exploring new areas, and even as a child, creating obstacle courses and other physical challenges to build strength and fitness.

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